Bitch: Director and star Marianna Palka’s disarming domestic drama refuses to play by the rules
Director/star Marianna Palka‘s Cannes hit Bitch (which had its Canadian premiere at the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival) is a gritty, animalistic family dramedy with so many underlining emotions and symbols running throughout that it becomes something much more; this movie takes chances and succeeds and more films need to follow its lead.
Bitch opens on a rather sad note with Jill (Palka) trying to hang herself on her dinning room ceiling fan. It doesn’t work and the fan [and her] crash to the floor. Being a strong mother and wife, she continues about her day. Fixing lunches for the kids, saying goodbye to her husband Bill (Jason Ritter) as he leaves for work in the morning. Almost like she wasn’t just moments before suspended by a belt in the dinning room, the shattered remains of the fan still on the floor. It’s not long after this that Jill disappears, leaving Bill in charge of getting the kids to school, making their lunches, picking them up from school, making them dinner, being a father. For lack of a better phrase. He lashes out, he blames Jill for leaving, he hates her for doing this to him even though he doesn’t care about her. He has been cheating with a co-worker at his office. He calls Beth (Jaime King) Jill’s sister to come over and help him while he tries to navigate this whole ordeal. When the kids finally find out where their mother is, it is initially comical, right up until you actually see her: turns out she’s naked in the basement covered in her own feces, howling like a dog.
Of course, the symbolism of Jill turning into a dog is really about mentally breaking down and hitting rock bottom. The film shows what it’s like to live with someone who is a neglectful and terrible husband but also the counter point of living with someone who is depressed and slowly collapsing. Jill’s transformation illustrates that she simply has no where else to go. It’s truly heartbreaking. Not all abuse is physical and Palka portrays that to disarming effect. It shows the neglect, the loneliness, the overall betrayal of living with someone who you have fallen out of love with.
And while initially we think the story is based around Jill’s plight, it’s actually Bill’s tale. When Jill breaks down and turns into a canine, he blames her. Not himself. Even though, he is the reason, he is absent and clearly doesn’t care about her needs. He is the true definition of a “man baby” and has his head up his own butt for 75% of the film. In one scene, he explains how at Christmas, he wouldn’t even take the time to buy Jill gifts, instead letting her buy her own, write the card and wrap it for herself. Yet, he still took the credit for the whole idea. Something only a man who truly doesn’t care about his wife would do. This moment struck a chord with the women in the audience during the Fantasia screening. It was such an effective scene that after the film was finished most were talking about that scene how they or someone they know has had this happen.
Fun fact: In real life, Jason Ritter and Marianna Palka dated while they filmed their first movie together Good Dick yet broke up prior to Bitch. I found gave that extra honesty to the story. They were former lovers in real life, shared the same intimate moments and they still care about each other. All these little facts just make this movie that much more heartwarming.
Bitch is a must-see movie. It takes a chance on an idea that seems ridiculous but in the end, it rewards its audience with an amazing story that touches the heart.